May 192012
 

Food riots will become general riots and then general lawlessness and disorder in a Level 2/3 event. Maintaining your security is your biggest challenge if you with to survive such a scenario.

Many preppers are individualists, and their initial assumption – that society will collapse in some form or another – is extended perhaps too far.

Yes, they rightly assume they need to plan for a future with no help from normal external support services, and there’s an unspoken element of ‘It will be every man for himself’ WTSHTF.  This is probably even true, to at least some extent.

But this sensible focus on self-reliance blinds some people to the essential need to form or join a community of fellow preppers as part of a Level 2 or 3 response plan.

It is reasonable to prepare for a Level 1 event that requires nothing more than turning on the generator at home and waiting out the restoration of normal services while eating stockpiled food.  Apart from having some friends around for social purposes and to fight off the boredom that might otherwise ensue if television, radio, and internet services are affected, you don’t actually need a support community of other people to see you through the Level 1 event.

But when you are instead responding to a longer term more severe Level 2 or 3 event, you have a very different set of issues you need to prepare for.

Most People Underestimate the Size of Group they Need

Just as common as the people who give no thought at all to creating a community any larger than their immediately family are the people who create a small group – perhaps a group of three couples get together.  That would be six people, maybe a couple of children, maybe an older generation person or two as well, but in total, probably under 12 people, and only six of them able-bodied adults.

Don’t get us wrong.  A group of six adults banded together is very much better than a couple all by themselves.  But is it good enough to really tilt the odds in your favor in a full Level 2 situation?  We don’t think so.  Read other articles in our series on communities and defending your retreat for discussions on why this is.

In the balance of this article, we consider some of the implications of managing a larger sized community.

Size/Type of Retreat

A typical American family home has between three and five bedrooms, and maybe two or three bathrooms.  That works very well for a matchingly typical American family of perhaps two adults and two children, boosted by occasional short-term guests.

But say you establish a community of 25 people?  How will that work?  Sure, you can pack a lot of people into even an ordinary house for a short term, especially if you have a working sewage line that takes your sewage away, and efficient cooking facilities.

From a social point of view, there are good reasons to split your group into a reasonable number of small ‘single family apartments’ or even separate dwellings.  From a security point of view, you want to have one single external wall to defend, and to have this external wall as small and strong as possible.

There is another thing to consider as well.  If you’re considering building a custom dwelling for your group of 25 or so people, suitable to withstand a Level 2 event, what will you do if the actual event is or becomes a Level 3 event?

As you’ll see in our article about community sizes for Level 3 events, you need an appreciably larger group to survive a Level 3 event.  Shouldn’t you be building a structure that will be suitable for a Level 3 community rather than a Level 2 community?

With this in mind, we generally advocate you should construct something analogous to a block of condos if you are establishing a larger community.  This article tells you more about the benefits and reasons for this.

Even a ‘Simple’ Level 2 Retreat is Not Simple

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  But your biggest challenge in surviving a Level 2 situation is not food or water or shelter or energy.  It is security.  And the second biggest challenge is the unforeseen, the unpredictable, the unexpected, and the not-planned-for.

The only realistic way to enhance your security is to get more people into your immediate retreat community.  Having friendly neighbors half a mile down the road is no use to you.  They are out of sight.  Even if you had a way of signaling them for help – and assuming your attackers didn’t get you by surprise – by the time your neighbors decided to risk their lives coming to help you, and by the time they got to your retreat, it would be too late.

Out of Sight = Out of Mind

This brings up a couple of relevant points.

The first is to appreciate that in a Level 2 or 3 situation, any sort of gunshot wound is much more potentially lethal than it is today, with first class hospitals and paramedics close by.  Closely related is the fact that the loss of a person in a small community is much more damaging in a Level 2/3 situation than it is today – here, people can be ‘replenished’ with new neighbors moving in; and whether they are nice or not is really not all that vitally important.  Post WTSHTF, you become intensely reliant on the people in your extended immediate family unit.

The second is that not only is the downside to putting one’s life at risk much greater in this sort of scenario, but also it is tactically ill-advised to leave your own retreat exposed and unprotected.  If your neighbors tell you they are being attacked, unfortunately the wise thing to do is to go to alert/lockdown in your own retreat, not to go rushing off over semi-open ground to help them.

The only people you can count on to be for sure committed to helping you are the people who are equally at risk as you.  This topic is discussed further in the article about how community mutual defense pacts sometimes work, and sometimes don’t.

How to Anticipate the Unanticipated

We suggest the second biggest challenge you will confront is something you didn’t expect, and didn’t plan or prepare for.  Or maybe it is something that you thought to be safely unlikely to occur, or something you couldn’t afford to plan for.

The best defense in such a case is diversity and redundancy of resource.  The more people in your community, the more skill sets you have.  Maybe you have someone with experience and background suitable for whatever goes unexpectedly wrong.  Or maybe a freak accident sees you lose a key member of your community – in a small community, you might now be weakened by the loss of skills that no-one else has; in a larger community, there is more chance that someone else has a similar skillset already.

An Introduction to Retreat Design Considerations

Creating an appropriate retreat capable of housing multiple families for an extended period of time in a secure environment almost always requires a custom designed/built dwelling.  This is a separate subject, but two quick points to consider.

Normal houses are not built for security; they are built for comfort and for an open airy feel, and are constructed out of low-cost non-ballistic resistant materials.  Did you know a typical rifle round can travel through the exterior of a house, through every interior wall, and then out through the other exterior wall on the opposite side of the house, and if the bullet encountered anyone on its path through the house, or even someone on the outside on the far side, it could inflict a lethal injury on the person too?

Secondly, you don’t want your ‘castle’ to become your coffin.  If your retreat is made of wood – either the walls or roof – you’re at risk of being burned out.  It is very foreseeable that if people can’t get to you, they’ll decide ‘Well, if we can’t get his food, he can’t have it either’ and simply set fire to your building and watch the building, its contents and its inhabitants all burn to the ground.

Bottom line – constructing a suitable retreat for a sizeable community is a specialized task.  Code Green Prep is creating communities and specialized retreats for our community members.  We would be pleased to consider you as a possible member of a Code Green community, or to assist you create your own community.

May 182012
 

It is wise to apply the oil of refined politeness to the mechanism of discussion and debate.

One of the problems in today’s society is that we have isolated ourselves much more than ever before from people different to ourselves.

We spend more time in homogenous communities, and so it becomes easier to vilify people who disagree with us, because we don’t see them as ‘people like us’ but rather as ‘strangers unlike us, with strange ideas unlike ours’.

This is unfortunate, because as theoretically right as our views may seem to us to be, and indeed as truly correct as they may be in a perfect world, in our real and imperfect world, sometimes the best views on anything are a compromised mix of different opinions and somewhere closer to middle ground.

The results of the growing polarization of opinion can be seen in the dysfunctionality of our political system, where politicians regularly lie and cheat the system purely so as to ‘trick’ other politicians into taking unpopular stands about things – even if the unpopular stands actually happen to be the right stands.  Well, we could go on and on about the problems with our politicians, but we’ll stop at that point, other than to observe one chilling essential truth :  We get the politicians we vote for.  The disappointing performance of our politicians reflects on us as much as on them.

Anyway, on to the point at hand.  The need to ensure a positive and polite level of discourse when discussing and debating prepping related matters.  Positive discourse reflects positively on ourselves and the topic of prepping.  Negative discourse is no good for anyone involved with it.

Whether you’re discussing prepping with a friend or if you’re being interviewed on national television, there are two scenarios we’d like to put to you.

Preppers Debating Prepping With Other Preppers

We’ve often seen situations where a prepper speaks passionately about some type of future risk and the need to prepare for what would happen if/when the risk eventuates.  Okay, great, more power to them.  We love to see passion and commitment to the concept of prepping, in any and all its forms.

But then they turn around and denigrate other preppers for having different priorities.  Oh, to worry needlessly about Possibility X is stupid, they say.

That is unkind and inappropriate, and acting that way detracts from their own advocacy.  While the person saying this fears they are competing against other risks, and other forms of preparing, that is not the case at all.  All of us preppers, no matter what future risks we wish to prepare for, are not competing for mind-share with each other.  Our biggest competitor is the overall rejection of any and all prepping, entirely.

Furthermore, a diversity of different prepping in a community gives a broader base of safety net for a broader base of possible futures, and one of the things about prepping is that all forms of prepping involve future scenarios of varying degrees of improbability.  There mere fact that an event is unlikely is no reason not to appropriately prepare some degree of response for it.

Nothing is guaranteed to happen at any point in the future.  Maybe there’ll be a Yellowstone eruption, maybe not.  Maybe the San Andreas fault will fracture in an earthquake to beat all earthquakes.  Maybe an asteroid will hit the planet.  Maybe, maybe, maybe, for so many things.  But (and happily), more likely, maybe not as well.

So to dismiss someone as stupid (a bad thing to say anyway) for preparing for an unlikely future risk; when we say ‘anyone who thinks they should prep against this future risk is nuts’, we are halfway to saying ‘anyone who thinks they should prep against any sort of future risk is nuts’ and that is more than halfway to saying ‘I am nuts’.

By all means, it is right and proper that you should have your own personal preferred forms of prepping.  Imagine how boring horse races would become if everyone bet on only one horse.

Besides which, people in different parts of the country, and living different types of lifestyles, and with different personal circumstances, quite validly do have different priorities for how they can approach the risks they confront, and different sets of probabilities attached to the different risks out there.

For example, you’re more likely to see someone in the Florida Keys preparing for a hurricane threat than you are to see someone in San Francisco, whereas the San Francisco resident is probably up to speed with earthquake risks, something the Keys dweller is completely unconcerned about.

A person with major net worth is more likely to be interested in high-end retreats costing seven or eight figures, whereas a person living on an average wage might be more focused on optimizing Level 1 situations and their responses to such things.  And so on, through as many different combinations of people, places and things as there are.

The thing is this :  Just because one person is investing heavily in some form of prepping while you are investing in a different form doesn’t make the other person stupid – and, relax, it doesn’t make you stupid either.  Any prepping is better than none, and we all have to play our personal favorites and do what makes us most comfortable and what addresses the risks of greatest perceived relevance to us.

So, fellow preppers, and recognizing that diversity is a wonderful thing, here’s a polite suggestion and request.

By all means advocate your own personal views and what you do yourself to prep.  But when someone asks you about a different type of prepping, perhaps for a different type of scenario, don’t be negative about it.  Adopt a look of intelligent uncertainty, but treat the other prepper’s viewpoint with the same open-minded respect you hope people will treat you and your viewpoints.

It is as easy as this – you can say something like :

There’s really no end of risks in the world today, but for most of us, we have to prioritize which risks we respond to, and to base our responses on the limits of our time and our budget.

In a perfect world, I’d be enthusiastically doing everything about the risks and responses you mention too, but it isn’t practical for me to do everything about everything, and for now, in my situation, I’m doing the best I can.

Your mileage may vary – you might have a different set of priorities, and possibly more (or even less) time and/or money to allocate to your own preparing.  I’m able to tell you about what I’m doing and why it is important to me; that’s not to detract from your (or their) perspectives – we can both be right.  You’d have to speak to experts on this other type of prepping to properly understand what they do and why they do that.

That is a positive high-minded response which shows you to be open-minded and statesmanlike and serious and sensible.  It reflects positively on you and on the broader concept of prepping.

You’ll win more people to your point of view if you don’t put them on the defensive first.

Preppers and Non-Preppers

Something else might have encountered is a prepper being heckled and harangued by a non-prepper.  Eventually, frustratedly, the non-prepper pulls out what he believes to be his ‘trump card’ and says ‘Well, we’ll see who is laughing when TSHTF – don’t come to me, begging for my food’ and possibly then makes some reference to the dozens of guns he owns in a meaningful manner, implying what would happen to people who come to him asking for food.

You’ve probably seen this happen, but have you ever seen the non-prepper then say ‘Oh my goodness.  You’re so right.  I hadn’t thought about that at all.  You’ve completely changed my mind.  Where can I start stockpiling guns and food?’

No, of course not.  You see the non-prepper’s non-acceptance of the prepping mindset harden into one of adversarial contempt and distrust.  He is thinking ‘That guy just told me he’d leave me to die, and maybe even threatened to shoot me.  There should be a law against people like him’.

Did what our prepping friend thought was his biggest and bestest argument win the debate, or did it lose the debate totally?

If you find yourself discussing prepping with someone else, you are much better advised to play down the level of prepping you currently undertake, and instead help the person you’re talking with to understand how he is already a prepper, without even realizing it.  The only difference between him and you is a matter of degree.

This is a much smaller ideological gap to bridge.  Instead of squaring off at each other, almost literally with guns drawn, you are standing on the same side of an issue, with common shared viewpoints on the big things already.  Neither of you has to change your mind, you just have to slightly alter your thinking on the topic.

Make a statement like ‘All prepping requires is a willingness to invest time or money or resource now to reduce the potential downside of a future event, be it likely or unlikely.  I bet you’re a prepper yourself, without even realizing it.  Do you have insurance on your car?’

The person will require ‘Yes, of course’ and might go on to say ‘I have to by law’.

In that case you can laugh and say ‘Insurance is a form of prepping.  When I buy long shelf life food, I’m paying an insurance premium against a food shortage.  And car insurance is prepping for the possibility of an accident – it is so prudent that it is required by law.  What about householder’s insurance – do you have that, too?’

Maybe the person says ‘Yes, I have to for my mortgage’, in which case you can smile again and say ‘Not only is prepping sometimes mandatory by law due to social reasons, but the bankers recognize the prudence of prepping for financial good sense too.  But whereas, at the end of a year, your insurance payment has gone for ever, I still have my 25 year extended life food stored, and in 24 years time, if I haven’t needed to use it, I can then get my value out of it by simply eating it or a tax write off from donating it to charity.  My voluntary prepping costs me nothing.  There’s no harm and no downside to that.’

Anyway, take the discussion wherever it goes, and don’t try to swing a person’s views completely around 180 degrees.  Instead, encourage them to see that they have all along been a prepper of some sort, and then help them to make just a slight change in their perception so that they feel the good sense in starting to participate in some prepping themselves.

Read through our series ‘An Introduction to Prepping‘ for more thoughts on how to explain prepping to non-preppers.

And – as for the ultimate illogic of the ‘Don’t come running to me in an emergency line’, turn that around and say ‘Well, I sure respect your right not to prepare for anything at all in the future.  But how about at least giving me a bit of encouragement to double down on what I do?  That way, if things do go wrong unexpectedly, you know you’ve got someone to turn to for help and support!’

That’s the positive side of the same coin, isn’t it.  It is absolutely true that, in a catastrophe, non-prepared people will be forced to turn to us for help.  If we have an abundance of materials beyond that which we need ourselves, of course we’ll do all we can to help our fellow citizens.  Maybe it could even be profitable for us to do so when people suddenly find themselves with money but not way to spend it; or  maybe we’ll just do things out of the goodness of our hearts.

But whatever the situation, it is best for the people we must live with now to see us as a positive force for good, and someone to befriend, ‘just in case’, rather than a scary monster ready to start shooting them at the drop of a hat.

The Thing We Are Preparing For

Here’s a related comment for when discussing various TEOTWAWKI scenarios.

Be fuzzy about the details of what you are preparing for.  It is better to say ‘Society today has a range of built-in vulnerabilities.  Accepting these vulnerabilities gives us great convenience in our every day lives as long as all goes well, but if the vulnerabilities should eventuate, then in a worst case scenario, our current comfortable secure lifestyles could be massively impaired.  I’d be pleased to talk through many different possible situations with you, but I don’t think that essential.  I’ve simply prepared to be able to withstand some possible breakdowns in our society and all the underlying support systems that we rely upon.’

It is harder to argue the prudence of keeping a supply of emergency food on hand in case some vague thing interrupts the supply of food to your local supermarket, than it is debating the likelihood of a specific nation launching a specific attack against some specific part of the US infrastructure.

Talking about preparing for adversity is an extension of the widely understood and admired Boy Scout code of being prepared.  Worrying about some remote catastrophe sounds close to paranoid.  Use the positive to describe yourself, not the negative.

Summary

Prepping is a ‘broad church’ and both allows and encourages for many different views and approaches to the topic.  It is a positive and supportive activity, and you should be positive and supportive in how you describe it and discuss it.

Remember the saying ‘You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’.

May 132012
 

This German stamp was worth two marks when first printed, then was over-printed before being released, for an inflated value of ten million marks.

It is very unlikely that in any Level 3 scenario, regular currency such as we currently have in our pockets today, will be honored or accepted by anyone, anywhere.

Even in Level 2 scenarios, while US currency may retain its notional abstract value, and people would be foolish if they burned it as fuel for their fire, it is likely that people may have difficulty using it to buy things with.  It will only be with a restoration of society after a Level 2 event that regular money will resume its normal role.

It is helpful to understand the evolving role of money so as to understand what may happen in a Level 2 or 3 situation in the future.  This article commits several gross sins of over-simplification in an attempt to explain the artificial nature of the money we all rely on today, and to point out why in a Level 2/3 situation, the acceptance of money as an intermediary abstraction of value will massively reduce.  If you’re an economist, by all means roll your eyes in disgust, but hopefully you’ll agree that even though we’ve over-simplified, the key points we make are valid and essential.

Money is Marvelous

One of the most marvelous inventions of the present world is money.  Indeed, it is such an essential element of the world that it is far from new – the oldest known examples of coins date back to the period of about 700 – 550 BC.

It is possible – maybe even probable – that coinage was used prior to that time, but perhaps made of less permanent materials.  Earlier forms of currency may have been fashioned out of wood – wooden nickels – or bone or other materials that probably have not survived down the millennia to the present day, and/or if they have occasionally survived, have not now been recognized as forms of money, being thought of instead as pieces of art and jewelry and tools.

Okay, so we all like money – or, more to the point, we all like the concept of wealth in general.  But why is money, as a means of trading, so good?  There are many reasons for this, some becoming quite technical and less immediately relevant, but let’s look at a few obvious and relevant ones now.

Money Facilitates Trade

In quick summary, money is good because it provides a convenient method of converting or exchanging between different things, and a non-perishable way of storing wealth.

Money makes it easier to trade the items you wish to sell for the items you wish to buy.  You can choose the person to buy your goods based on how much money they will pay you, not based on what products they have to sell in exchange, and you can choose the people you buy things from based on the prices of the products they sell rather than on their willingness to buy the products you have to sell.

If you have spare assets – for example, food items – you can sell them and the money you received will not perish or go stale.  Money also is easier to store – it takes up less space, and doesn’t require any special care.

The size of money also means that if you need to buy something from the market, you don’t need to fill your vehicle with whatever it is you hope to exchange for the products you need – and if your attempts at exchanging the items are unsuccessful, you don’t need to take it all home again.  You simply keep the money in your pocket.

Money also makes pricing more predictable.  As in the earlier example, the value of things now becomes a more universal sort of concept, rather than based on the vagaries of who would wish to buy them at any given time.

Money – An Abstraction or a Tangible Representation of Wealth?

These days, most people conduct most financial transactions without money ever physically passing from them to the person they are buying or selling something with.  Credit cards, internet transactions, electronic banking, even relatively old-fashioned checks – all of these are abstractions of the underlying money, but they work based on the accepted high probability that these abstractions can be readily converted into real money – although depending on a store’s check acceptance policies, these assumptions are not always universally accepted.

It is easy to understand how a credit card transaction or a check embodies a statement along the lines of ‘by this piece of paper (check) I am instructing my bank to transfer some of the money it is holding on my behalf to your bank, from which you can then spend or withdraw it as you wish’.

Now for the really important issue, which most people live their entire lives without ever considering, and – happily – without ever needing to consider.

What is the underlying actual value of the money in your pocket?  How was this value set?  How might it change?

Even the question itself is difficult to phrase and express, because it is such a foreign concept for many people.  What is a dollar worth?  A dollar is worth a dollar, right?  What is the question?

This is actually a very important question after the end of LAWKI.  At present, we all have – to a greater or lesser degree – reasonable confidence in our government and our economy.  We all believe that a dollar is worth a dollar, and don’t need to second guess the issue at all.

Money Originally Had Underlying Value Equal to its Face Value

Indeed, there are historical reasons for this confidence.  It used to be that a dollar was exchangeable for a dollar’s worth of gold bullion.  Our currency was asset backed.  No-one needed to question its value, because we all knew that a dollar was worth a dollar’s worth of some certain asset – typically but not exclusively gold for higher values, and silver for lower values.

This has been the historical underpinning of currency.  While money is also an abstract representation of some sort of underlying tangible object, the fact that it can be exchanged for the underlying object of value has confirmed the abstract value of the money itself.  Money has been, for most of its history, either inherently valuable (ie made out of valuable metal that is worth about the same as the face value of the money) or convertible to an object of known value.

This underlying concept of either inherent value or convertibility to known value also helped trading beyond a small region.  Although these days exchange rates between currencies around the world are based as much on abstractions as on realities, back then, exchange rates were simple – ‘My one ounce gold coin, which I call a dollar, converts to two of your half ounce gold coins, which you call pounds’ (or whatever other currencies were being traded).

A time came when it became more convenient to carry around representations of the underlying gold or silver or whatever, rather than to actually carry the precious metal itself.  Just as gold coins saved us the hassle of carrying our assets with us, paper banknotes saved us having to carry around a stack of gold coins.

Money Becomes More Abstract In Form

Institutions – banks – were created, and they would hold all your money for you (in the form of gold or other precious tangible things) and then issue ‘IOU’ forms indicating that the forms could be taken back to the bank and swapped back to the gold.  These IOU forms became banknotes.

So far, so good.  But then we started to (perhaps) get too clever for our own good.  Banks noticed that people rarely came back to ask for their gold, and so they started to issue more IOUs than they had gold in their vaults.  This worked fine until or if there became a rush on the bank, and all of a sudden, the bank couldn’t redeem all its IOUs and that was considered to be a generally bad thing by the people holding the IOUs, which had now become worthless.

So the government centralized the role of controlling the issuance of IOUs, making it harder for banks to cheat the system for personal gain (but, alas, not making it impossible – not then, and not all the way through to the present day).

It is important to understand that initially the governments took the role of becoming the master issuer of banknotes so as to protect the underlying value of the currency.  But, before too long, they started to succumb to the same temptation that private banks had, too.  Why should they limit themselves to only issuing enough banknotes to represent the gold they had in their vaults?

If a private person or bank does this, they are committing fraud and possibly worse crimes, and risk going bankrupt, and the people holding their now useless IOUs/banknotes lose the value of the paper they have.  But if the government itself does it, well, by definition, it must be legal, right?  And how about the value of the money we have – is it ever at risk?  (Read the section below on hyper-inflation for the answer to that.)

Fortunately, and most of the time, we do not need to question what it is that supports the value of the money we have.  If I say ‘this is worth a dollar’ and you say ‘so too is this worth a dollar’ we are using the dollar as an intermediary way of equating the value of my item and your item, based on our broad knowledge of the values of other items and the value of how we could otherwise spend a dollar’s measure of money.  The key reality is that we have each used a common scale to equate the value of the items we have and might be considering exchanging, and a commonly accepted form of holding on to and passing over the intermediary value of the objects we are trading (ie the coins and banknotes).

We could measure everything we buy and sell in pounds of wheat or gallons of gas or anything else, too; but in the present world, it is easiest to use dollars as a universal measuring tool, and as a universal way of conveying value from one transaction to the next.

An Introduction to Government Intervention and Inflation

But this measuring tool is not a sacrosanct object that stays fixed in form.  The government can change things by putting more money into circulation (or by taking money out of circulation).  This can be a hard concept to understand, and in very simple terms, think about this :  If the total value of things in a town comes to 5000 units of value, and if all the money in the town comes to $10,000, then do you kinda sorta see how you can say the 5000 units of value equate to $10,000?  Each unit is worth $2.

Now if suddenly we get more units of value – say the main value of things in this town is food and there has just been the annual harvest – what happens?  We still have $10,000, but now we have 10,000 units of value.  You know that when something becomes more readily available, the price drops, and this is what happens in our terribly simple economic model.  Each unit is now worth $1.

Of course, if something happens and half the stored food is destroyed, you’ll have 2,500 units, making each value worth $4.

So far, so good.  But what happens now if the town prints off another $10,000 in banknotes.  We now have $20,000 in money, and still the same original 5,000 units of value to spend the money on.

Do you see how adding this extra money, without adding extra value at the same time, means that each unit of value is now worth less.  Instead of a unit costing $2, it now costs $4.

This is an example of inflation.  If the supply of money increases at a greater rate than the underlying wealth of the economy, the value of things gets reduced and their costs increase, because there is a tendency for the total value of all real items of value to equate the total sum of the money in the economy.

Now if you are a federal government and you need to pay for a $1 billion expenditure – maybe a foreign war, or a new capital works program, or whatever, you have an easy way and a hard way to get the money you want.

The hard way is to tax your citizens, or to divert money from other forms of expenditure.  The easy way is to simply print another $1 billion in currency and use that new money to pay for the project, without needing to tax your citizens.  They love it – they have a new freeway or whatever, and haven’t had to pay any taxes.

Except that the value of the currency has been reduced, and the prices of everything goes up.  This would be impossible if each dollar had to be represented by a dollar’s worth of tangible value, but these days, that requirement has long since been abandoned, and so inflation occurs.

We’ve grown tolerant and accepting of a small amount of inflation (and there are other reasons for inflation too, some of them almost ‘good’ reasons).  But what happens if our government breaks its ‘social contract’ with us and irresponsibly prints way more money than it should?

Hyper-Inflation Is What Happens When Money’s Value is Destroyed

Maybe you’ve seen the pictures of inflation-ridden Germany in 1923, and of their banknotes with incredibly high values on them.  Similar things have happened more recently in Zimbabwe, and slightly less spectacularly in Russia.

Remember how we said that if you print more money, the price of things goes up?  Well, in Germany in 1923, the government was printing so much money that it had 300 paper mills and 150 printing companies with, between them, 2000 printing presses, all working around the clock, printing money as fast as they possibly could to fuel the fires of its runaway inflation.  By October 1923, only 1% of the government’s revenue was coming from traditional sources such as taxation.  The other 99% was being artificially created by printing more worthless money.

An item that cost 1 mark in January 1923 was costing 261 million marks by November.  The value of currency was dropping so rapidly that workers were being paid three times a day.

But the ‘real’ cost of things remained the same.  Although the cost of a loaf of bread in Germany rose to 200 billion marks at one point, two things remained more or less constant.  The relative cost of a loaf of bread and a pint of milk and a new pair of shoes remained closely similar – everything was going up in value simultaneously.  And the number of hours of work it took to earn enough money to buy one of these items – that stayed much the same as well.

The other thing that remained much the same was the cost in foreign currency to buy the item.  The cost of bread was skyrocketing in terms of the cost in German marks, but the number of marks you could buy per dollar was also skyrocketing too.

So it has been common in some countries experiencing hyper-inflation for a second stable currency to co-exist alongside the local currency.  Historically that has usually been the US dollar – indeed, during Russia’s early independence after 1991, many items in shops were priced in US dollars rather than in rubles, and the price was converted to rubles only at the time the item was being purchased.

What this shows us is that if people lose confidence in their currency, or if their government plays financial games with it, the currency will fail, but the underlying economy can survive, albeit using a different form of currency.

But because the role of money – marks in the case of 1923 Germany – as an intermediary was totally destroyed, and back then there were not the modern convenient ways to price items in an external currency – so too was the German economy.  Other economies have only managed to survive by basically ignoring their local currency and using some external reference point for trading purposes.

Implications for Level 2/3 Situations

At present, the US has an efficient national economy, with many trillions of dollars of transactions occurring every year.  Goods, people, and money can freely move all around the nation, and while there are some regional variations, in general, a dollar is worth a dollar, wherever you go, and can be freely converted into a dollar’s worth of goods.

After a Level 2/3 event, the country will fracture into tiny regions, each having their own micro-economy.  Maybe your micro-region has a surplus of food and a shortage of energy.  Food will be cheap and energy will be expensive, because the ability (and or costs) of ‘exporting’ food to another micro-region and ‘importing’ energy will be massive.  The opposite might apply just 100 miles away.

That’s okay, and doesn’t destroy the value of money by itself.  But wait – there’s more.

A dollar is only worth a dollar when we know we can for sure use it to buy the things we want and need.  Remembering back to the earlier example, if there is a shortage of goods, they will become more expensive.

In our micro-economies, we will move from an economy where the limitation on transactions is more to do with people’s personal wealth and their ability to afford the items they want to buy – this is the situation at present for most of us; and instead it will become an economy where the limit is not on the money we have, but the shortages/availability of things to buy, no matter what their cost.

Today, imagine two people.  One person has 10,000 gallons of petrol stored in a tank, but no money in his bank account.  The other person has $10 million in his bank, and only half a tank of gas in his car.  Which person would you rather be?  Most of us would prefer to have the $10 million – maybe we’d spend $100,000 of it to buy/build some storage tanks and fill them with 10,000+ gallons of gas, but we’d still be left with $9.9 million to enjoy in other ways, and to buy anything we wanted.

But, after the end of LAWKI, who would you rather be?  The guy with 10,000 gallons of petrol in storage?  Or the person with an entry on his bank statement saying ‘Balance = $10,000,000’?  What would you now be able to buy with your millions?

This example shows two things.  First, clearly 10,000 gallons of gas, formerly worth maybe $40,000, are now worth way more than $10 million!  Secondly, just having money no longer matters.  The former easy convertibility between money and things of real value has been destroyed.

Here’s another example.  Your small community is surviving as best it can, and three strangers turn up at your gate, asking to join your group.  One says ‘I have with me enough food for all of you for six months.’  The second says ‘I hear you have some elderly and unwell people in your group.  I’m a doctor and I have a range of common medicines in my bag.’  The third says ‘I’m a mega-millionaire and I have a suitcase full of $100 bills.’

If you can only accept one of these three people, who would you choose?  We’ll let you argue as between the man with food and the doctor, but chances are, the millionaire will be left outside, unwanted and unwelcome.

Some Conclusions

1.  The completely different economic basis of life after a Level 2 or 3 event will completely change the current relative values of things.  Luxury goods will become worthless.  Common ordinary items will become invaluable.

2.  Because our current US currency has no underlying real value, it will cease to play a role in a Level 3 scenario, and will be put ‘on hold’ during a Level 2 scenario, or perhaps massively devalued.  A pound of meat might cost two pounds of wheat, or $500.

3.  The most important things for a person to have will be skills and tangible items that extend life.  Even gold and silver will be less valuable than a knowledge of farming, animal husbandry, medicine, etc.  A pound of food will buy another day or more of life; you can’t eat gold or silver.

4.  Due to the compelling benefits of currency as an intermediary in all forms of exchange, initial bartering systems will be replaced by new regional currencies, with real asset backing.

5.  The most dangerously useless part of your own preparing is to accumulate abstract intangible wealth – ie, stocks, shares, bonds, CDs, etc.  None of these things won’t be of any value to you WTSHTF.

Accumulate assets that will assist you with food, shelter, comfort and security, not money, because in a Level 2/3 scenario, money won’t buy you any of these life-essentials.  Spend your abstract wealth now and convert it to life enhancing supplies.  Indeed, borrow money to get these things now – if TSHTF, you’ll have the supplies you need, and the debt you incurred will probably become meaningless.

May 092012
 

Amateur Radio is an invaluable communication tool for after TEOTWAWKI and easily used by anyone with only a moderate amount of training required.

(Note – this article is a mix of ‘easy to understand’ material and some material which requires some knowledge of radio technologies.  You can read and learn from it either as a currently non-expert or as a more knowledgeable person, and so other than this comment, we make no apologies for some of the more complex content herein.)

A key part of any disaster scenario will be keeping in touch with other prepped people.

It is reasonable to assume that traditional methods of communication – landline phone, cell phone, fax and internet will degrade in quality and availability, either slowly or quickly, so if you don’t have some alternate method of communicating, you’ll end up completely out of touch and disconnected from supportive groups of fellow preppers.

Having multi-band radio receivers so you can receive AM, FM, weather, shortwave and miscellaneous other radio broadcasts is clearly an essential tool in your prepping kit.  But before too long, you will feel the need to transmit as well as simply receive information – whether it is to coordinate with other members of your group during the day, or for as simple a matter as to ask your nearest known neighbor if you can trade something you need for something he might need, or for something urgent like needing assistance due to a medical or security emergency.

FCC Regulations on Radio Transmitters

All devices that transmit radio waves are subject to FCC regulations.  Remember that just because there is a breakdown in social order, current regulations don’t just disappear and cease to apply – besides which, you’ll want to practice with your comms equipment prior to any disaster, so you should plan to, as much as possible, conform to existing FCC regulations.

The FCC can sometimes be quite draconian in terms of tracking down and penalizing operators of unlicensed or illegal radio equipment – meaning either people operating on frequencies they are not permitted to use, or people using equipment for unauthorized purposes, or using radio equipment that is too powerful for the terms of their license.

It is best not to run the risk of a confrontation with the FCC, because if you do commit an offense, you could be liable not just for the loss of your equipment and the loss of your license, but also for severe fines and potentially even a two-year prison term.  In addition, many of the FCC rules simply make good sense in terms of how best to use the radio waves on a shared basis with all the other people seeking to use them too.

Most radio transmitters require some sort of license – some licenses can be obtained simply by filling out a form and paying a fee, others require you to pass a technical knowledge exam (so as to become an amateur or ‘ham’ radio operator).

Licenses are sometimes given only to businesses wanting to use radios for business purposes, other times only to individuals for personal non-business use.

In a few cases, it is also possible to legally buy unlicensed radio transmitters.  The most common of these are the ‘old fashioned’ CB radios and the more modern FRS radios.  They suffer from some disadvantages however, including lack of range and sometimes greatly congested channels, made worse by appalling idiots playing on the channels and interfering with people having more sensible needs to use the channels.

For all intents and purposes, all radio receivers are unlicensed.  And note also while it is necessary to get a license before operating a radio transmitter and broadcasting in a frequency band that requires licensing as a condition of its operation, it is possible to buy a transmitter without a license, and to lawfully own it.  You only need the license when you’re going to plug it in, turn it on, and hit the ‘Transmit’ button.

Becoming a Ham Operator

If you become a ham radio operator, you get automatic permission to operate transmitters in more frequency bands.  You’re no longer stuck with the limited number of licensed and unlicensed frequency bands and the equipment limitations also imposed on such uses.  You can also use more powerful equipment with better range, and you can use frequencies that are much less congested.

There are three categories of ham operator, with successively more difficult tests to pass in order to become licensed.  The lowest category is the Technician Class.  To get a Technician class license you need to sit a 35 multi-choice question test, and get at least 26 answers correct.  You no longer need to be proficient at Morse Code (the need to be able to send and receive Morse code was abolished in 2007).

The 35 questions are selected from a published set of 396 possible questions, so it is possible to simply do a bit of ‘rote learning’ and memorize the answers to these questions without needing to learn much in the way of underlying theory or electronics.  But because many of the questions are to do with the rules and regulations rather than technical aspects of radio operation, you do need to do some study prior to sitting the test, even if you truly know all about radios from a technical perspective.

The Limitations of a Technician License and VHF/UHF Operation

Getting a Technician’s license is a great first step, and massively opens up your options for short-range radio communications.  Basically, you will be able to use a variety of types of radios that transmit in the VHF and UHF brands, and all such radios are essentially range limited to ‘line of sight’; and indeed, sometimes it is quite literally line of sight – if there are obstructions between you and the person you’re hoping to communicate with, you’ll not be able to do so, or only at greatly reduced ranges.

There are ways to extend the practical range of your communications by adding repeater stations to rebroadcast your transmissions on to another area, but in an extended period of loss of normal civilization and services, it is unrealistic to expect repeater stations will continue in operation, because they of course rely upon electricity to function.  As soon as the power grid goes down, and possibly after a very short period of battery back up operation, these repeater stations will go off the air, too.

Yes, you could set up a PV (solar cell) array and batteries as a way of making a repeater station into a self-contained independently operating unit, but you’d need a sizeable PV array, good sunlight, and big batteries if the repeater was to operate 24/7 and carry much traffic on it.

HF Gives Preppers a Whole New Use for Ham Radio

There’s another approach which might work better in many cases, and which will also extend the range of your radio communications massively – switching to HF bands instead of VHF and higher.  This will give you the ability not only to have line of sight and repeater-augmented additional range within your local region, but will give you coverage across much of the US and sometimes all the way around the world.

Your use of ham radio then switches from being a tactical level service allowing you to maintain contact with other local members of your own group, to instead becoming a strategic asset, and instead of communicating primarily with fellow group members, you now have the ability to contact fellow hams in the US and beyond (there are about 700,000 hams in the US and perhaps 3 million world-wide; many hams are also, to a greater or lesser extent, also preppers).

You can use the ability to communicate beyond your immediate zone for a huge range of things.  You can coordinate trading of supplies (this is a bit marginal in terms of FCC regulations which prohibit using amateur licenses for commercial purposes), security information, weather information, and general news about the evolution of the problem that disrupted society and the recovery of the country – and world – from that problem.

Information is power.  HF radio gives you access to much more information than you’d otherwise get during any massive disruption to normal society and its services.  And while the news you get from outside your area might not always be good, your sense of isolation is reduced, and with it, you can build up that essential element of your survival – a positive feeling of hope for the future.

The ‘General’ Amateur Radio License Gives You HF Privileges

So now you agree that being able to use some HF bands will be an essential part of your communications strategy.

To be granted permission to use HF bands, you need to pass a second test – the FCC’s General License test.  This is in the same format as the Technician test (35 multi-choice questions, with a need to get 26 correct to pass, and a slightly larger pool of 456 questions from which they are drawn), and indeed some of the questions in the General test are identical to those in the Technician test.  So you’re part-way to passing your General License as soon as you’ve obtained your Technician license.

There is also a third category of ham license which gives you access to slightly larger frequency bands in the HF spectrum – the ‘Extra’ License.  This has a similar test again, with 50 multi-choice questions (and 735 questions in the ‘pool’ from which questions are drawn).  The questions are appreciably more difficult, and you are required to get 37 of them correct.

Of course, although full understanding of the questions/answers requires a huge amount more knowledge, they are as susceptible to ‘cram-learning’ as are any other pre-disclosed multi-choice tests.

Some people will want to get an ‘Extra’ license just because they see it as a challenge.  Others might worry about congestion on the HF bands and want to get into the more exclusive remaining bandwidth that only Extra licensed operators can use.  Our guess is that the congestion on the HF bands will be reduced in some type of post-TEOTWAWKI scenario, and also that some operators will think nothing about ‘trespassing’ into the parts of the spectrum currently reserved only for Extra operators in such a scenario.

Furthermore, with many fewer Extra licensed operators out there to start with, there will be fewer additional people to potentially communicate with if you too get an Extra license, and all those Extra licensees can be reached through General frequencies, too.

So while we urge you to get a General class license, we view the Extra enhancement as being of minimal value for preppers.  Keen ham enthusiasts will of course want to get an Extra license.

Note that although there are about 700,000 ham radio operators in the US, only about half have the General or Extra license that allows them access to HF bands.

Test Taking Strategy

In order to get a Technician license, you need to pass one test (it is called the ‘Element 2’ test).  In order to get a General license, you need to pass both the Element 2 and also the Element 3 test; and you can probably guess – an Extra license requires you to pass three tests – Elements 2, 3 & 4.

You can sit these tests at the same time, and there is no extra testing fee for sitting more than one test at a time.  And because you’ll be busy studying up a lot of stuff for the Element 2 test which will be helpful for Element 3 and even Element 4 too, if you are able to devote some more time, and if you already have a basic grounding in this material, it might make sense to try and do at least two and perhaps even all three tests at the same time, as the result of one single period of intensive prior study.

Not to boast, but the writer found that his general knowledge, augmented by a couple of hours of study, was sufficient to easily pass the Element 2 test and to score better than 50% on the Element 3 test – not a passing grade, but indicative that not a huge amount more study is needed to upgrade your skills from those you develop to pass the Element 2 test to those needed to go on and get the Element 3 certification too.

Otherwise, if you pass Element 2 now, then do nothing for a year, you’ll have forgotten much of the Element 2 material and you’ll need to re-study that as well as the new Element 3 material.  And the same for Element 4, which builds on your knowledge gained in Elements 2 and 3.

Truly Learn – Don’t Just Selectively Cram

It is of course possible to just memorize all the questions and their answers without any understanding of the meaning of either the question or the answer.

Some of the questions are frustrating in the sense that they ask you questions which you’ll probably not need to ever know the answers to, or which due to their complexity and volatility, you’ll probably print out and display on sheets around your transmitter equipment.  In such cases, rote-learning is fine (for example, do you really need to commit to memory which bands allow communication with space stations).  Some of the questions are self-serving – do you need to know the underlying complexity of how the test questions are designed and administered to you?  Again, learn those by rote.

And do you really need to understand all about the ITU, CEPT and IARP agreements before answering the question which asks which one gives reciprocal operating rights between the US and some Central/South American countries and their hams (it is IARP in case you really must know).  This too is something you might simply learn by rote.

But much of the general radio knowledge and theory is stuff you should learn and understand as comprehensively as possible.  If you do find yourself confronting a TEOTWAWKI situation, you’ll probably be the only resource available for maintaining and managing your radio system, and some underlying knowledge and competency could then become essential when you’re trying to work out why your system isn’t working as you think it should, or how and when to best punch out a signal to the other coast or beyond.

License Details

The good news is that the license you receive is good for ten years, and is completely free of charge.  Amazing – the government provides this to you completely for free.

You don’t need to re-sit the tests as long as you keep your license renewed every ten years.

You will be semi-randomly assigned a call sign identifier; and if you wish, you can apply for a vanity call sign to replace the initial random call sign.  This will cost you just under $15 for a ten-year vanity call sign.  Vanity call signs can be shorter and/or might contain some special combination of letters that means something to you such as your initials; but not all number and letter sequences are available, due to a need to coordinate your call sign with those of everyone else, everywhere else in the world.

Make Sure You Are Learning For the Current Test

The questions used for the three tests are updated once every four years.  During the four year life of each set of questions, there are occasionally minor tweaks or changes – primarily in the form of changing the wording in questions and answers to make them clearer, and occasionally withdrawing a question entirely if it is superseded by changes in FCC regulations or general usage and practice.

If you are buying or otherwise accessing study materials and guides, make sure they relate to the test set that is currently in place.  Older versions of books and software might be out of date.

At the time of writing, the current sets of test questions run through :

Technician :  These expire June 30, 2014

General :  These expire June 30, 2015

Extra :  These expire June 30, 2016.  Note that the previous test series expired on 30 June 2012, and there are still some places selling or otherwise providing study test materials based on the older test series.  Make sure you’re basing your study on the new set of questions.

Resources

The FCC of course has a website, but it isn’t very immediately helpful or useful to most would-be ham operators.

The major organization for amateur radio enthusiasts is the American Radio Relay League or ARRL as it is generally known, and their website can be considered as the prime starting point for any research you need to do.

You can find details of when and where you can go to sit the tests on their site here.  It seems that you never have to wait more than a few weeks to find a reasonably convenient testing location.

The official question and answer pools for each of the three exams can be seen on the NCVEC website.

This website has a free downloadable program that you can use on a PC to test yourself on all the questions for each exam.  It is reasonably good, but lacks the diagrams that some questions refer to (download those from the NCVEC website).

This site generates sample tests from the test pools, so you can test yourself ‘for real’ and see how you are progressing.

This is another site which generates sample tests, and sometimes also provides study guide material for the questions being asked.

Here is probably the best book to help you learn and prepare for the Technician License, and the companion book for the General License.  This is the third book in the series, for the Extra License, but make sure the link takes you to the correct edition (due to the test series changing in June 2012).

All three books come with excellent software that help you evaluate your study and, if a question puzzles you, they link you to the appropriate section of the book so you can selectively study only the parts you need to know, rather than learn everything in the book in total.

Summary

Using radio services that are restricted to licensed ham amateur radio operators will give you enhanced local/tactical communications capabilities.

Getting an advanced ham license (either the General or the Extra license) will allow you to use potentially globe-circling HF bands as well as local/line-of-sight VHF/UHF bands; the ability to communicate with people outside your immediate area might seem like an irrelevant luxury in a time of maximum difficulty, but the information you can share with people further away is more likely to become an essential element of surviving and prospering.

May 082012
 

Justice is a fickle friend, and laws for safe sane times may not apply with equal sense in an extreme situation

(This is an enormous – and essential – topic, we’ll come back to it repeatedly in future articles.)

None of us really know what to expect after TEOTWAWKI.  It is prudent to imagine a range of ‘worst case’ scenarios and to prepare for them to varying degrees.

The whole concept of TEOTWAWKI involves vague perceptions of lawlessness, of the break-down of government and law and order; with post-apocalyptic images of roving bands of marauders looting and pillaging, and armed shoot-outs between preppers in their fortified retreats and attackers trying to invade their dwellings and steal their food.

Much of this may indeed occur, and we are right to be prepared for such breakdowns in our social fabric.  But even though government may be paralyzed and ineffective, the rule of law will remain in place unless formally repealed.  Murder remains murder.  Stealing remains stealing.  And that is just the start – it is not only such ‘prime directives’ as these that will continue to apply.  Alas, all the gazillion and one other rules and regulations that currently attempt to keep our orderly lives well maintained will also remain in force, even though they clearly would be dysfunctional and would interfere with all our desperate attempts at survival.

Think about it this way – at the present time, just because there is no policeman within ten miles or twenty minutes doesn’t mean all the applicable laws don’t apply to what you’re doing and where you are.  Just because you’ve not been audited on your taxes before doesn’t mean you don’t still have to fully and accurately disclose all your income.

And just because you ‘got away with’ something at the actual moment you did it, that doesn’t mean it won’t come back to haunt you a day, week, month, year, or possibly decade or longer in the future.

This will be true during any type of crisis, too.  For example, if you need to get a building permit before commencing construction of a barn, and if you need to get a building inspector to then sign off on the building before it can be occupied; if you don’t do these things during a crisis, you may find your barn will be condemned and pulled down once the authorities resume their reign over us.

If you set up a local radio station for your community, you would be liable for FCC fines and possibly even imprisonment when they get back to enforcing such things.

Shoot a deer or a duck out of season and without a permit, or with a type of firearm not permitted for such purposes, and you’ve still committed a crime which in some states could see you subsequently get locked up.  There’s no exception to these laws for ‘except if starving or after the end of the world as we know it’.

And if you should discharge any firearms inside city limits, that could prove a problem, too.  If the discharging of a firearm resulted in the death or injury of another person, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself staring at an investigation that threatens you with a potential murder charge.

Understand one more thing.  Such investigations will likely be brought by the people who were and are resentful of your preparedness, and your ability to more comfortably survive through the tough times than they did.  They won’t say so in as many words, but they’ll be out to get their own back at you.  They’ll be starting to judge you from the standard that you should have shared everything you had with all the people who didn’t bother to prepare; they’ll consider you as little better than baby killers (indeed, it is a certainty that babies (and people of all other ages) will die during a major extended emergency, and they’ll be the first to say ‘So why didn’t you sacrifice all your food, all your fuel, all your shelter, and everything else you so selfishly hoarded, so these children of these poor illegal immigrants could survive’.

These people will truly believe that you should have risked your own future as a valid sacrifice towards the future of others who formerly sneered and laughed at you for your prepping.  They’ll say ‘Who are you to play God and to decide who gets to live and who doesn’t?’ – by which they mean, you have usurped their rights to control your life and the lives of everyone else their petty bureaucratic powers allow them to interfere in.

When they have legal authority over you in some form again, they’ll seek to punish you – ostensibly for violating a city ordinance like parking too long on a city street or who knows what else, but in reality for simply having been better prepared and not suffering as much as they did.

How to Protect Against Such Outcomes and Problems

There are two very important things you should do :  Select an area where the people start off with values as close to yours as possible; and actively make yourself part of the ‘solution’, not part of the ‘problem’.

You’d not want to go into full survivalist mode in downtown Los Angeles or Chicago or Washington DC or New York or Boston (or lots of other similar places too).  You’ll be breaking all sorts of laws with every breath you take, and when order is restored, the politicians, the policemen, and the potential members of any juries will all look askance at you and be prejudged towards punishing you for your good sense and prudence.

You may have heard police officers and other government officials boast that they can always find some law that everyone they ever meet has broken or is currently breaking.  ‘We can always find a reason to stop you and write you out a ticket’ sort of thing.

On the other hand, in smaller towns in rural midwestern and northwestern states, you’ll find many people still believe in individual initiative and personal responsibility, and would be less likely to think ill of you as a prepper.  Indeed, they’re probably semi-preppers themselves (maybe even full-on preppers), and in a small rural community, more likely to be able to ride out any breakdowns in society than would be the case in the large cities.

This is a much better place to site yourself to start with.  And when you do, don’t be a stranger to the community.  Integrate yourself into it.  Join some social groups, a local church, and so on.  Participate in local events.  Help in community fundraising.  See about becoming a part-time city police or country sheriff’s deputy.  Run for a seat on the local council.

Get yourself known and liked, and if you can influence local policy, so much the better.

You don’t want a group of uniformed strangers turning up on your doorstep to confiscate all your firearms or arrest you for some ridiculous charge; you want your friends to tell you they are running interference for you, or at the worst, to ask you to give them one or two guns just for show.

If things go really bad and you subsequently find yourself facing a judge and jury, you want them to be people as much like you as possible, and sympathetic to you personally and your values in general.  While the jury members will probably be selected only from people who don’t personally know and like you, you’ll want them to be friends of friends, and/or to know and respect people you can subsequently call as character witnesses in any trial.

Be a Prudent Prepper, Not an Extreme Survivalist

This is another area where proper prudent prepping is massively at variance with the ugly image of ‘extremist survivalists’.  Extremist survivalists try to create an alternate reality outside of the world they are unavoidably a part of.  This is never going to be possible, and we see the spectacular results of such failures at places like Waco in Texas.

Prudent preppers try to fit into society and co-exist amicably with ‘normal people’.  They realize there is no practical alternative.  Domestic enemies of our government have no rights and no recourse and no escape.  There’s no way you can run and no way you can hide from the awesome capabilities of our armed forces.

Occasional small bands of roaming marauders armed with pistols, rifles and shotguns – those you can probably fight off.  But hundreds or thousands of National Guardsmen and US Armed Forces?

And your ‘bullet proof’ retreat, guaranteed to protect you against .308 rounds?  Worst case scenario – the US Air Force has bunker buster bombs that will penetrate down through over 200 ft of earth or more than 100 ft of reinforced concrete.  How’s your retreat looking now?

Never mind the Air Force’s bunker busting bombs.  Just a single tank from the nearest National Guard post, and/or just regular troops with an M-72 LAW or an M-136/AT-4 can destroy just about any fortified retreat, and instead of firing semi-auto rounds, they’ll be using crew served heavier caliber weapons.

It truly is much better to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Summary

They say that after the end of the world, the one species that will for sure remain, survive and flourish are cockroaches.  Maybe so, maybe not.

Never mind the cockroaches.  Government bureaucracy will be the absolute last thing to disappear – and, regrettably, the first thing to return.

Your prepping needs to be based on the ability to conform to as many of the present and potential future ’emergency’ laws as may be possible and to avoid escalated conflict with the authorities, whatever and whoever they may be, during and after an emergency.

May 032012
 

People gather by a Mayan temple in Chichen Itza, Mexico

An international survey just released suggests that 15% of people world-wide believe the world will end during their lifetime.

The least pessimistic countries were France (6% expect the world to end), Belgium (7%) and Britain (8%).  Here in the US people are the most pessimistic, with 22% of people expecting the world to end in their lifetime, the same percentage as in Turkey.  People see the world ending for a variety of reasons, including biblical prophesy and the Mayan 2012 claim.  More details here.

Now for an important distinction.  These people are not preppers.  These people expect the world to end; preppers simply expect a major change to the world as we know it; either briefly, or for some more extended period of time.

There’s really no way to prepare for the complete end of the world, is there.  What use is stockpiled food, a retreat, or anything else if the world just ends!

Keep this in mind when talking to others about your views.  Possibly one reason that some groups of ill-informed people choose to ridicule or sneer at preppers is their lack of understanding about who we are and what we do.  When your friends discover that preppers aren’t strange people, but are normal ordinary people like yourself (hopefully you’re reasonably normal and ordinary!) that challenges their first perception, and when they discover that you don’t expect some type of super-natural Armageddon that is impossible to resist, but rather, you are simply prudently preparing for a range of very possible short and longer term disruptions to our current comfortable lifestyles, that should challenge their other misperceptions, too.

After all, wouldn’t you much prefer your friends and neighbors to join you in prepping for future challenges?  That way, if/when something does occur, rather than having them trying to get free assistance from you and your own scarce resources, and being a drain on your own preparations; they’ll instead be able to contribute to a larger shared resource of capabilities and materials.

There’s no need to be aggressively bothersome about talking about prepping, but if the topic comes up, it is appropriate to talk a little about it.  We suggestion you start off from the point that everyone is a prepper already to a greater or lesser extent, and the only distinction between us all is how much we prepare and what we prepare for.  That is a positive and inclusionary approach to the topic.

Apr 302012
 

Groups of rioters and looters can be difficult to anticipate and defend against

There’s nothing new about rioting and civil/social disruption.

Indeed, it is currently the 20th anniversary of what are known as the ‘Rodney King Riots’ in Los Angeles – a five-day period of mayhem that erupted with no notice, and which saw looting, destruction, arson and murder across substantial parts of South Central Los Angeles.

It is helpful to quickly review lessons from this before moving on to a look at future vulnerabilities.

The Rodney King/South Central Los Angeles Riots in April/May 1992

The jury decision acquitting  the police officers who were filmed beating Rodney King was announced at 3.15pm.  The first protest response was at around 3.45pm when a crowd of about 300 gathered outside the courthouse to protest the decision.  This was nothing too alarming.

Between 5pm and 6pm, a group of 24 police officers confronted a growing crowd of African-Americans – not at the courthouse, but a considerable distance away in South Central LA.  Out-numbered, the officers retreated, ceding command/control of the territory to the crowd.  By 6.45pm, this crowd, with no police presence to moderate or control them for almost an hour, started looting, attacking vehicles and people.

A television helicopter at 6.45pm, hovering over the crowd, filmed and broadcast live scenes of the crowd dragging a white man (Reginald Denny) out of his truck and viciously beating him up.  We suggest that this live coverage of the crowd gone wild and with no police presence may have encouraged and incited others to join in what was spiraling into major rioting.

It quickly became apparent that the police had withdrawn entirely from large sections of South Central Los Angeles, leaving lawless anarchy behind.  Opportunistic looting and destruction started taking place on a widespread basis, opposed only by Korean store owners who armed themselves and banded together to protect their stores.

Over the course of the five days, nearly 1600 buildings were destroyed or damaged as a result of 3600 different fires.  More than 2300 people were injured, and at least 53 people were known to have been killed in riot related violence (including 10 shot by either the police or armed forces).  22 of the 43+ non police shootings remain open and unsolved now, and in view of the passing of time, will probably never be solved.

The murders are significant because the rioting looters were not just unarmed people looking to steal a color television.  Many of them were armed, and were either randomly shooting at people for no reason at all, or were using their firearms to force their way past store owners so as to loot their stores.

The police were immediately overwhelmed and unable to maintain control, and it was only after not just the National Guard but also regular US Army soldiers and Marines too were deployed that the rioting ended, five days after it started.

Lessons from the LA Riots

From our perspective, we see several key lessons.  The first is that civil disruption can develop very quickly.  It is hard to say at what point ordinary citizens would have become alarmed at this rioting – remember the timeline above.  The court decision by itself didn’t mandate that rioting in this scale would follow, neither did the people protesting at the courthouse – if anything, that was safely away from South Central LA and a safety valve for upset citizens.

The two key events were the police retreating from the group of protesters sometime around 6pm, and then the evolution of the mob from angry upset people to a lawless group of rioters, and the broadcasting of the mob violence over live television, indicating to other disaffected people that they could riot with impunity.

From the flashpoint sometime after 6pm to the televised beating of Reginald Denny was less than 30 minutes, and rioting on a regional basis was underway within an hour after that.

The second lesson is that it took 4 – 5 days before the police – by then augmented with some 15,000 reinforcements in the form of other state police and federal officers, National Guardsmen, plus regular Army and Marines, to get the rioting under control.

We Are More Vulnerable Now to Similar Rioting

There was a lot of analysis into why such a large group of people chose to riot in 1992.  Much of this analysis took the form of liberal hand-wringing and blaming society and other factors/forces for the bad behavior of the rioters; you can choose to accept or reject that as you wish.

But one point is relevant – the point that the rioting came after some extended period of rising disconnection between the rioters and society in general.  This disconnection was economic and social in nature.

We make this point because it seems probable – whether validly justified or not – there is a similar disconnection across much of the country at present.  For further exemplification of the current disaffection of large groups of society with the society in which they live, look at the riots in England in August 2011.  This was a four day period of mayhem that infected not just many parts of London, but also other cities and towns across England too that ended up affecting 48,000 businesses with losses to a greater or lesser extent.

The last few years have been marked by a difficult economy and a growing disaffection at the dichotomy between ‘evil bankers’ at one end of society and their ‘economic victims’ at the other end of society (we’re not judging the merits of such disaffection here, merely reporting on what we observe).  The Occupy Wall Street movement has done a good job of exploiting this unrest, albeit largely peacefully.

We have also seen groups mobilizing against what they see as the evils of international trade, protesting at World Trade Organization meetings.

And in addition to these groups of people who are suffering real or imaginary grievances, there are the ever-present anti-social groups in the country who are keen to take part in violent mayhem any time they can just for the sheer devilry of it, and/or as a way to enrich themselves with the spoils of looting.

So our first point is that the underlying social tensions that could create violent rioting are as strong today as they have ever been.

Now for the second point, hinted at in our headline.

We have suggested the Rodney King riots grew from the televised coverage, beamed into everyone’s living rooms, showing people that they could riot with impunity, and in effect encouraging them to join in the party.  That factor remains ever-present today too, of course – maybe even more so.  Video isn’t just sourced and distributed from professional news gatherers in their helicopters, now everyone with a cell phone can shoot video and within minutes have it live on YouTube or elsewhere.

We now have a new factor – a factor that has contributed to successful revolutions in other countries (notably Egypt and other ‘Arab Spring’ countries) and believed to have been a key element of the rapid growth and spread of the rioting in England last August.  This is the use of social media by rioters to promote their actions and to call in more people to join with them.

By social media we mean primarily Twitter and texting because these are almost instantaneous ways of passing information, either from one person individually to other individuals, or from one person to groups of any size up to many thousands of people.  With such information being sent to people’s cell phones, there is little or no delay between a message being sent and it being received by tens, hundreds or even thousands and tens of thousands of people.

Twitter in particular has two very powerful features for social networking – the ability to ‘re-tweet’ and to forward on twitter messages to other people, and the ability to add ‘hashtags’ as a way of reaching other like-minded people who the sender doesn’t already know and hasn’t met before.  A twitter message can potentially ‘go viral’ and end up on hundreds of thousands of people’s screens in minutes.

We have already seen this in a slightly less threatening sense – the new phenomenon of sudden flash mobs, coalescing out of nowhere.  Until now, these flash mobs have been largely non-violent and haven’t got out of hand.

These tools can also be used by mobs as a way of passing ‘intelligence’ among themselves – letting mob members know the whereabouts of police, road blocks, etc that might impede their actions, and also letting them know where the best tempting targets are.

There is also an added dimension with social media has helped facilitate.  It is less regional and more national/international.  The Rodney King riots didn’t spread to the rest of the US.  The London riots last August were instantly emulated and copied in other cities and towns all across England.

Summary

We suggest there is at least as much underlying disconnection between large elements of the ‘under-classes’ (define that term any way you wish) and society in general now as there was in 1992.  Social media make any flashpoint more likely to spread, further and faster, than ever before.

Riots seem to take 4 – 5 days to bring under control (assuming they are controllable).

There is little reason to expect riots would spread out of the concentrated downtown areas of cities and into the outlying ‘leafy suburbs’ – there’s just not the density of population and tempting targets to sustain a riot in a residential suburb full of single family homes.  But if you live in a downtown area, you are vulnerable to the direct effects of rioting, and if you live in a suburb, you may be vulnerable to flow-on effects such as disruptions to food supplies and to utilities.

It is impossible to predict where riots may start or what the flashpoints may be that initiate them, and also impossible to predict where they may spread.

In a major riot situation, you should expect rioters to be armed and to be senselessly shooting at people, places and things for no reason other than because they can.

Seeking refuge inside a building in a riot affected area is only prudent if there is no risk of the building being set on fire.  In a riot situation, you have two choices – evacuate the area entirely as soon as there is evidence of growing rioting; or be prepared to defend your property from safe positions and with the possible need to use lethal force to do so.

If you choose to evacuate, you need to be careful with your choice of route – you don’t want to abandon the possible greater safety of your residence and then find your car ambushed by rioters, or to be trapped by destroyed cars blocking the road ahead.

If you choose to defend your property – perhaps because it is not safe to evacuate – you will need to have as many people as possible with you and willing to actively defend your property.  One or two people are unlikely to dissuade a rioting crowd of 20 – 50 (or more) rampaging towards you.  The Koreans were reasonably successful because they grouped together, and because the rioters recognized in the Koreans a determined adversary.

A less than lethal way of getting the attention of a crowd and persuading them to leave you well alone might be some exotic shotgun rounds – in particular, the Dragon’s Breath rounds that spit out a brief jet of flame approximately 50 ft or more, a ‘fire siren’ round that sends out a very loud whistle (send this first to get their attention) or a thunder flash round (very loud noise – implies very great power), and stinger type rounds that send out nylon balls that hurt but usually don’t seriously wound or kill.

In such a case, you’d want to test these rounds before an emergency to get a feeling for their range and effects, then you’d want to carefully understand where those range points are around the property you’ll be defending.  Note also that the Dragon’s Breath is massively more spectacular at night.  And you could only use this in places where there was no risk of starting fires as a result of your firing the round – you might end up causing more property damage to other people’s property than that you prevented to your own property.

Needless to say, you only have a short time to use such warning devices before needing to use something more serious.  Don’t still be warning a crowd when it engulfs and overwhelms you.

Apr 292012
 

The entrance to 'survivalist' Peter Keller's underground quarters

There was a time when preppers used to call themselves survivalists.

But the main stream media took over this term and used it so overwhelmingly negatively, that to call oneself a survivalist immediately branded one as an anti-social, Aryan-nation, racist, government hating, tax-evading, fundamentalist, dangerous extremist who was plotting to overthrow our country’s government by force.  (Did we leave any negative adjectives out?)

Here’s the latest example – a man allegedly killed his wife and daughter then hightailed it to his hidey-hole in the woods.  But does the newspaper headline describe him as a murderer on the run?  Nope, the headline calls him a survivalist, and the lead photo shows a picture of his underground lair’s main entrance door.

The clear implication – ‘survivalist’ and ‘murderer’ are synonymous terms.

So we now call ourselves Preppers – people who prudently prepare for possible problems in the future.  How long will it be before the main stream media starts painting all the extreme loony-toons types as preppers rather than as survivalists (most journalists haven’t yet realized we’ve changed the name we use to describe our beliefs, values, and actions)?

The thing is that the people who were, from time to time, sensationally described in newspaper headlines and breaking news reports on television as survivalists never were ‘real’ survivalists.

Good survivalists might have some disagreements with the present government and some of the social engineering it conducts, but they’d never dream of actively resisting the government other than at the ballot box and through lawful lobbying.

Good survivalists might occasionally have arguments with neighbors and also family members, but they’d never dream of murdering them.

Good survivalists might plan, prepare, and even construct a retreat somewhere as a refuge subsequent to a massive collapse in society, and they’d even hope it to be a place of comparative safety in such a situation, but they’d never in their wildest dreams think it to be a place they could hide away in at present, and resist being found by the lawful authorities.  Furthermore, they’d doubly never never dream that if they were found, they could safely hunker down and not get captured.

But anti-social loony-toons will do all these things.  Why does the press then over-generalize and say ‘this guy planned for future disasters, and was a loony-toon.  Therefore all people who plan for disasters are loony-toons?

That’s the same as saying ‘This guy votes Democrat (or Republican), and he also murdered his wife and children.  Therefore, everyone who votes Democrat (or Republican) also murders their wives and children too’.  Or, for another example, that’s the same as saying ‘This guy had a fatal accident and killed another motorist because he was drunk while driving his Toyota car.  Therefore all people who drive Toyota cars are dangerous drunk drivers.’

The flawed logic is the same in both cases.  But even though thousands of Democrat supporters commit murder each year, no-one suggests all Democrats are murderers.  Even though Toyota cars are involved in thousands of fatal accidents each year, no-one suggests that all Toyota drivers are dangerous.

Any sensible person understands and appreciates the need to conform to the laws of the society they live in, because they are also sensible enough to understand the consequences.  All sensible people realize that it is totally impossible to win against a confrontation with the country’s law enforcement forces.  This is as inevitable and certain whether it is the lone murderer written about in the article linked above up against a mix of 50+ different SWAT team members, or the entire 112 Branch Davidians in Waco Texas up against many hundreds of ATF, FBI, Texas Rangers and Texas National Guardsmen, with armaments up to and including two M1A1 Main Battle Tanks.

Furthermore, we suggest that Preppers are more sensible and more prudent than the average person.  If a person builds their life around being prudent, being cautious, being sensitive to future potential possibilities and negative outcomes, aren’t they the sort of person who is least likely to embark on risky and unlawful behavior that is absolutely guaranteed to lead to negative outcomes?

One more thing.  You may or may not choose to incorporate some prepping into your own lifestyle, but you should welcome the presence of preppers in your neighborhood, and you should befriend them.  When your food and water runs out, while delicious cooking smells are wafting across to you from your prepared neighbor; when you’re shivering in the cold and dark, while their lights are still on, aren’t you going to want to be best friends with the preppers next door?

It is unfortunate that the MSM have taken over the word ‘survivalist’ and re-purposed it to mean ‘crazy wacko violent loony-toon’, but now that they have, and now that we have a new term of our own – ‘prepper’, we probably should accept the difference.  Preppers are good, survivalists are bad.